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Mech Ageing Dev. 2000 Dec 20;121(1-3):131-7.

Reduced IFN-gamma production in elderly people following in vitro stimulation with influenza vaccine and endotoxin.

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Section of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Department of General Internal Medicine, Leiden University Medical Center, Building 1 C2-R, PO Box 9600, NL-2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.


Cytokine interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) is pivotal in the defence against viruses and intracellular pathogens and an age-related decreased IFN-gamma production may explain the increased infectious disease morbidity and mortality in the elderly. Therefore, we performed a series of clinical experiments evaluating the influence of age and health status on IFN-gamma production following in vitro stimulation with influenza vaccine or endotoxin. Both healthy and frail elderly people produced significantly lower amounts of IFN-gamma following ex vivo stimulation with influenza vaccine or endotoxin. We conclude that ageing is accompanied by a decreased capacity to produce IFN-gamma. This may explain the increased incidence and case-fatality caused by viruses and intracellular pathogens in the elderly.

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